Red Maple – Acer Rubrum

Tree of the Week

7th October 2019 | Info

Common name: Red Maple

Scientific name: Acer rubrum

Introduction: The Red Maple is a deciduous tree that is non-UK native. It averagely grows to reach 12-18m tall and has an average lifespan of 130+ years.


Leaves: Palmate with 3-5 lobes that are arranged oppositely on the twig and have toothed edges. The top-side of the leaves are light green, with the bottom face being white/glaucous in colour and slightly hairy. Typically. Red Maple leaves turn to a bright red in autumn, yet,  dependent on soil acidity, they may become more yellow or orange.

Buds: Green to red in colour with loose scales. They are blunt, large in size and form in autumn and winter.

Bark: Pale grey and smooth when young. As the tree starts to mature, the bark becomes darker and develops fissures.

Form: Red Maples can grow in a variety of shapes from oval and rounded to upright and erect shapes.


Red Maple trees can either be monoecious, dioecious or polygamodioecious, which means that each tree can either be male, female or have both male and female flowers. Typically though, you will find them to be monoecious with separate male and female flowers forming in sessile clusters that are red in colour. Samaras are then developed and vary in colour from light brown to red. Samaras ripen from Mid-spring to early summer before leaves are fully grown and once they have matured seeds begin to disperse. The Red Maple name comes from the bright red flowers it produces rather than the fiery scarlet colours of Autumn.

Growth Habit:

Medium to fast growth rate.

Interesting Facts:

Red Maple trees are native to Eastern and central North America. Traditionally, Native Americans would use the bark of the tree as a wash/treatment for inflamed eyes and cataracts whilst also using it as a remedy for hives and muscle aches. Tea that was made from the bark would additionally be brewed to treat coughs and diarrhoea. Red Maple Bark extract has also been used to make coloured dyes.

Ecological Importance:

Samaras produced by the trees are a food source for squirrels and other rodents. Rabbits and deers also eat the shoots and leaves of Red Maple trees.

Properties of Red Maple Wood and its Uses:

Red Maple has a medium to high-quality timber which has a close grain. Due to its slightly softer texture, good stability and flexibility, Red Maple wood is often used to make musical instruments or custom furniture. Red Maple is also used for maple syrup on a small-scale. This is because the maple has to be extracted before the tree’s buds appear and thus so means that it has a shorter season.

Styling and Uses of the tree:

In the UK, the Red Maple is typically used as a decorative or ‘shade tree’ for landscapes. However, they are not very common.

Associated Pests and Diseases:

Aphids, Horse Chestnut Scale and Verticillium wilt. Red Maple, especially when dried out/dead is extremely toxic to horses. The toxin contained in red maple is unknown with limited treatment available.


Pruning and Pruning Qualities: Red Maples require little pruning and produce sap which can seep from open cuts when pruned. Pruning of this tree should be carried out in mid-late Autumn as this is when the tree has a low amount of sap in its branches (sap has been absorbed by the tree’s leaves). 

Growth After Pruning: Red Maples continue to grow quickly once pruned (which makes it slightly more difficult to maintain!).

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